Colorado man pleads guilty to killing pregnant wife, kids

Chris Watts has reached a plea deal in his murder case

A Colorado man has avoided the death penalty for killing his pregnant wife and two young daughters in a case with North Carolina connections.

Chris Watts, 33, pleaded guilty to the nine charges, including first-degree murder and unlawful termination of a pregnancy, for the August slayings of his wife, Shanann, who was found in a shallow grave, and his two daughters, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, whose remains were found in commercial oil tanks.

He could be heard sniffing and trembled each time he said "guilty" in response to each charge read against him by the judge.

Shanann's parents Frank and Sandra Rzucek are pictured at the press conference after his hearing on Tuesday.

Watts' defense attorneys came to the prosecution weeks ago with proposals for plea deals, according to Rourke, though he doesn't know why they did. Watts told investigators he "went into a rage" and strangled his wife, then dumped all three bodies at the oil field owned by a company he had worked for.

According to court documents, a police investigation determined that Watts "was actively involved in an affair with a co-worker".

After his pregnant wife and two daughters disappeared, Watts stood on his porch in Colorado and told reporters how much he missed them.

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Watts had faced the possibility of the death penalty if convicted, but under his plea agreement prosecutors pledged to not seek the death penalty, Steve Wrenn, chief deputy district attorney for Weld County, told the judge.

"I don't know how I could have sat in Sandy (Rzucek)'s kitchen and asked her to commit the next 25 years of her life of the criminal justice system", Rourke said. "And so that's about as firmly as she could have said it to me, and that was very compelling to all of us as we were talking about how to proceed on this case".

"I'm not sure if it's the entirety of the motive, but I will be happy to comment on that following sentencing", Rourke said.

Rourke said he described "extraordinary delays" in carrying out the death penalty in Colorado since Gov. John Hickenlooper's 2013 decision to block the execution of Nathan Dunlap.

"We charged him with what we truly believed he had done", Rourke said. "The spotlight shines directly where it belongs: On him".

"What I can tell you most affirmatively today by what happened in the courtroom, is the spotlight that he tried to shine on Shanann, falsely, incorrectly and frankly a flat-out lie, has been corrected", said Weld County District Attorney Michael J. Rourke. Rourke said he was "sick" and "saddened' over the case".

A memorial outside the home of Shanann Watts in Colorado.

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